Shaila Catherine, has been practicing meditation since 1980, with more than eight years of accumulated silent retreat experience. She has taught since 1996 in the USA, and internationally. Shaila has dedicated several years to studying with masters in India, Nepal and Thailand, completed a one year intensive meditation retreat with the focus on concentration and jhana, and authored Focused and Fearless: A Meditator’s Guide to States of Deep Joy, Calm, and Clarity. Shaila Catherine has practiced under the guidance of Venerable Pa-Auk Sayadaw since 2006; she authored Wisdom Wide and Deep: A Practical Handbook for Mastering Jhana and Vipassana to help make this traditional approach to meditative training accessible to western practitioners. She is the founder of Insight Meditation South Bay, a Buddhist meditation center in Silicon Valley.
This talk explores the concepts of self and not-self, and how we conceive of a self by clinging to sensory experiences. How do you construct the sense of being a someone, and the notion that you possess something? The process of selfing is addressed as a form of thought. We can intentionally investigate how the identification forms, what it depends upon, and liberate the mind from it's hold.
Restless thinking often fuels self concepts with thoughts about me, what I desire, or the projects I am planning. The formation of identity is seductive, and even jhana states and meditative attainments can become the basis for clinging if the meditator is not watchful. As we awaken to the empty nature of mind, we might ask: will nothing be enough? Do you experience in seeing, only seeing; in hearing, only the hearing; in sensing, only sensing; in cognizing, only the cognizing? Or does the habit of conceiving of a self in experience complicate perception and cause discontent with the basic truth of emptiness?
How are we using our minds? Where do our thought incline? The Buddha's teachings focus on the practical application of intention and the power of thought, rather than ritual, as the potent force behind action. Working with thought, we see how habits and tendencies develop and form patterns known as kamma (karma). We must be honest with ourselves and see any conceit, agitation, anger, greed, or restlessness that might be lurking as tendencies of mind. We can learn to use our thought skillfully, and guard the mind with diligent mindfulness. Wholesome and unwholesome thoughts are explored. There is nothing to fear from wholesome thoughts such as intentions toward renunciation, letting go, loving kindness, compassion, and generosity, and yet a concentrated mind will bring deeper rest. The path of liberation and awakening includes the development of morality and virtue, and also calmness, concentration, and wisdom.
Mindfulness brings a powerful quality of presence to our encounter with experience. By cultivating deep presence we meet life below the level of superficial concepts. We disentangle the mind from the story of self. More than charisma or social skills, deep presence implies a profound way of being which brings our momentary encounters into the immediate present.
Meditation can reveal the dynamic process of emotional life. This talk explores relationships between mind and body, between thoughts and emotions, and between present moment experience and concepts. Emotions are not avoided in meditation, instead we engage in a balanced and wise investigation of emotions and see their changing, impermanent, and empty nature. Transformative insight into impermanence may come through understanding the functioning of mental states, without worry about difficult emotions such as anger, grief, or fear. We will learn to respond, act, and speak with wisdom as we learn to open to the full range of emotional life.
How does suffering manifest in attachment to views? This talk explores right view and addresses the danger of attaching to a position, philosophy, belief, or opinion. Primary sources are the teachings from the Middle Length discourses numbers 72 and 74. Recognizing the dangers of attachment and clinging to beliefs and opinions, we directly investigate what can be known in the mind and body. This is a pragmatic path of mindful awareness that results in actions that are immediately liberating.
What do we need to know, understand, investigate, and realize through our meditation practice? In the Anguttara Nikaya. VI, 63, the Buddha described six things that should be known in six ways. The six things to be known include desires, feelings, perceptions, taints, kamma (actions of body speech and mind), and suffering. Each can be known through their presence, conditioned origin, diversity, outcome, cessation, and way to cessation. This talk explores the structure and details of this brief sutta teaching, and proposes a practical approach to investigating the mind and our relationship with life.
Shaila shares her process of discovering and practicing the deep concentration states of jhana, and detailed vipassana practices as taught by Venerable Pa-Auk Sayadaw of Burma. She speaks about the cultivation of concentration and insight, and the systematic path that leads the mind from distraction to clarity, understanding, and nibbana. At the request of Venerable Pa-Auk Sayadaw, she wrote a book to serve as a practice guide for other practitioners: Wisdom Wide and Deep: A Practical Handbook for Mastering Jhana and Vipassana
Our views, beliefs, and opinions affect our perception of events. To what extent do we assume that we are right and become attached to our opinions? With attachment to views we solidify a sense of self. Mindfulness meditation invites us to observe our relationship to views and opinions and see how it might be distorting perception by reinforcing a fixed sense of self. The term "right view" does not imply a more accurate or factual perspective; rather, right view describes a perspective beyond all attachment to views and opinions.
Right view is an approach to life that leads to awakening, to enlightenment. As mindfulness becomes mainstreamed in western culture, serious practitioners should take care that the framework of virtue, the integrated eight-fold path, and the liberating potential of meditation practice are not lost. Both mundane and supramundane right view are examined in this talk. Ultimately, right view implies a direct realization of the four noble truths and of the model of dependent arising.